Mention the band Black Sabbath, and people instantly think of Ozzy. And yet, while the average teenager doesn’t know all the words to “Iron Man,” even Beavis and Butthead could belt out “duh,duh,duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh, duh, duh duh.” Tommy Iommi, the man that spawned a million air guitar Gods and wrote riffs that are as heavy now as they were over 30 years ago is back with a self-titled release, Iommi.
The formula for an album like this is simple, in theory. Step A, name the band after yourself and maintain control of ever step of the process (see: Danzig). Step B, since you don’t sing, do collaborations with everyone who might possibly have street cred, and connect you with the younger generation (see: Santana). But, in the end, does Iommi pull it off?
The surprising answer is, yes! Iommi has picked an interesting group of people to work with, all of whom should get up every morning and thank him personally for creating their careers and letting them suckle off of Sabbath’s success the last 30 years. Guest vocalists on the album include Henry Rollins, Skin, Dave Grohl, Phil Anselmo, Serj Tankian, Billy Corgan, Ian Astbury, Peter Steele, Billy Idol, and the “Oz” man himself. The musician’s roster is also a who’s who of people who probably learned to play their instruments as teenagers by wearing out their Sabbath record collection.
The guitar work (that’s what this is all about, right?) is great. It’s not too flashy, which is perfect – 100mph solos and overtracking ruins doom music. The solos that are there are tasteful and blend right in. I didn’t get the feeling that these were “songs written around solos,” but rather complete songs. The songs do show off Iommi’s style, usually with some heavy chords in the foreground and a bit of lead work just in the background.
Iommi makes the transfer pretty smoothly between old rock guy and new rock guy. Some of the songs, like “Time is Mine” (with Phil Anselmo) sound like they could have come straight off of Paranoid. The album is pretty evenly divided between older sounding doom’ish type songs, and newer, riff based rockers. “Black Oblivion,” featuring Billy Corgan, is a great riff based rock song. Most of the songs seem to start out with some sort of synthetic drum loops, and each time I was afraid that Iommi was going to go for a Ministry or Nine Inch Nails type of thing, but they all quickly head back to the realm of rock before embarassing anyone.
When I finally got to track nine, “Who’s Fooling Who,” featuring Ozzy on vocals, I forgot I was listening to Iommi – this is as close to Black Sabbath as you’re going to get these days. Hell, any of these songs could have appeared on a Sabbath album. I won’t say that every song on this disc could have been another “War Pigs,” but they’re all enjoyable and I didn’t hate any of them.
If you’re looking for a fix of “new” Black Sabbath tunes, pick this disc up. It’s a tasteful combination of old and new. Classic doom riffs, tight drums, and some new vocal talents joining the party. Tonight I’m gonna party like it’s nineteen-sixty-nine.
01. Laughing Man (In The Devil Mask)
03. Goodbye Lament
04. Time Is Mine
06. Black Oblivion
07. Flame On
08. Just Say No To Love
09. Who’s Fooling Who
10. Into The Night